Boy who spent 3 years at German refugee camp reunites with family in UAE

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Khaleej Times has covered the plight of the Hassan family before, as well as their struggle of living apart.- Photo by M. Sajjad
Khaleej Times has covered the plight of the Hassan family before, as well as their struggle of living apart.- Photo by M. Sajjad

Ajman - Hamad reunited with his parents, three brothers and one sister in the UAE on September 12.

By Sarwat Nasir

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Published: Mon 17 Sep 2018, 5:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 May 2019, 2:05 PM

The life of a Syrian teen has taken a positive turn as he was finally reunited with his UAE-based family after spending three years in a Germany-based refugee camp.
Ibrahim Hassan Hamad, 13, crossed the deadly Mediterranean Sea in 2015 without his family in hopes to find refuge from the ongoing war that has destroyed and taken away countless innocent lives in Syria.
Hamad's Father, Hassan Ibrahim, allowed his then aged 11 son to travel and live without his family at a refugee camp in Hamburg. The father, who works as a manager at a construction firm in Dubai, said he was desperate to save his children from the war and let his son take the "opportunity" when it arose.
Khaleej Times has covered the plight of the Hassan family before, as well as their struggle of living apart.
After feeling severely depressed, lonely and hopeless for three years, Hamad reunited with his parents, three brothers and one sister in the UAE on September 12.
"I feel like my childhood is already gone. I had to grow up really fast. But, like the many people who have been in similar situation as me would say - I'm just glad I am alive," Hamad told Khaleej Times, who is now happily settled into his family home in Ajman.
The UAE announced in 2016 that it will welcome 15,000 Syrians into the country in a span of five years. It is also offering Syrian, Yemeni and Libyan nationals a one-year residency permit as part of the country's three-month-long amnesty programme.
Hamad received a two-year residency visa, which is sponsored to him by his father. It is unclear whether his visa was part of the amnesty or falls under the 15,000 Syrians quota. Regardless, the Hassan family is overjoyed to be whole again.
"There were times when I thought I would never see them again. I thought my parents wouldn't be able to see me grow up and I would never play with my siblings again. My life was on a pause," he said.
"When my father called to tell me that my UAE visa was approved, I couldn't believe it."
Hamad's mother, Sabah Hassan, said that she'll be able to "sleep at night" again, now that her son has returned.
About two months after Hamad had left to Germany, his mother and siblings were able to move to the UAE from Syria. The father has been in UAE for a few years now.
"Our family is complete again. Most of our family is here with me, but, I couldn't keep the sadness away until my son was with me again. Now, I'm happier that my family is together again," she said.
Hamad's sister, Amal Hassan, said: "I'm so happy that my brother is here. Now, we can play together again and I can help him in school as well."

Dangerous route

Hamad arrived at the Neudorf 1 Refugee Camp in Hamburg in September, 2015, after getting on a boat from Turkey. He crossed the Mediterranean Sea - a dangerous route that has killed thousands of refugees - and first reached Greece. From there, he was put on another boat that took him to Germany.
He shared a room with one other Syrian refugee and was being given an education provided by the government of Germany. All of the refugees at the camp were also taken out on city outings twice each month.
"They took good care of me and the rest of the refugees that were there, but, no matter how nice some place is, it means nothing if you're without your family," Hamad said.
"I made a few friends, but, most of the times I felt too depressed and stayed in the room. I tried calling my father every day to ask if he got my visa yet or not. It gets difficult when you have a big family and then, suddenly, you are living with strangers in a foreign country."
Hamad used to live in the Syrian town of Jarabulus. They owned their own house, the children went to school and they lived a normal, happy, life.
But, in mid-2015, their house was taken over by the Kurdish army and then it was destroyed in a bombing. They lost all of their belongings, passports and other important legal documents. Hamad's father paid $6,000 to get their passports made.
Now, the long struggle for the Hassan family has come to an end as they all have been reunited and hope to start their lives over.

School offers free schooling for Hamad

The Safa Community School has offered Ibrahim Hassan Hamad, 13, who reunited with the family, a full scholarship until he is ready to go off to university.
Hamad's three siblings are also attending the Safa British School and Safa Community School for free.
Now, a total of eight refugee children from two families attend the Safa Schools for free.
"It is our duty and responsibility as a school and as a community to make sure that every child goes to school and receives good education," Louay Khatib, managing partner of Knowledge Venture LLC - the company that owns the Safa schools, told Khaleej Times.
"I hope all schools in Dubai will extend their help to provide free or low cost education to refugees and children who cannot afford to access education. This is the least we should do for the community."
An overjoyed Hassan Ibrahim, Hamad's father, said: "I cannot thank Mr Louay enough. He has changed our lives for the better and he has given us so much hope. My children are going to a school I never thought they would be able to attend. Now, my children can be anything they want in the future - doctor, engineer or pilot."
Hamad's sister, Amal Hassan, said she will help her brother catch up on his studies. Currently, Hamad speaks only Arabic and a little German.

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